ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Kurdish singers and musicians had a New York crowd on their feet and dancing to their traditional music this week at the annual GlobalFEST celebration of world music.
Held on January 12 at the Copacabana nightclub, the GlobalFEST’s 17th annual music festival showcased 12 artists from around the world, including a Kurdish one: Tufan Derince.
Derince, who plays electric baglama, is originally from Diyarbakir province in southeast Turkey. He now lives in the Netherlands. His band includes three other Kurdish musicians: Kenan Can, Raman Dari and Murat Surucu.
“I was very proud to sing for the foreigners,” Derince told Rudaw English late on Thursday, explaining it was a five-year struggle to appear at the festival.
His hometown, Diyarbakir, is culturally rich – home to many popular Kurdish singers and musicians, but a Turkish ban on Kurdish music, especially songs that echo the plight of Kurds in the country, has limited the freedom of singers. Derince recently moved to the Netherlands where he sings at wedding parties and other events.
He said he received a warm welcome from the American crowd. Jon Pareles, music critic for the New York Times, described the Kurdish performance as a “whirlwind.”
“The Tufan Derince Trio was decidedly undemonstrative onstage, but its set of Kurdish wedding music was a whirlwind,” he wrote.
“Derince also toyed with tone: buzzy, piercing, nasal, twangy, keening. What started as a marvel of breakneck perpetual motion kept accelerating,” added the critic.
Music: the new Kurdish weapon
Band member Raman Dari sings and plays the saz, a stringed musical instrument. Originally from northeast Syria, known by Kurds as Rojava, Dari told Rudaw English that he wants to use his music as a weapon to promote the rights of Kurds.
Kurds, especially because of their prowess in the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS) group, are frequently associated with war, but, said Dari, “now we want to use music as a weapon.”
Fans of Kurdish music in Wilmington, Delaware can catch Tufan Derince Friday night.
Derince said he wants to perform at more international venues “to familiarize them with Kurdish music.”
GlobalFEST also honoured musician Kayhan Kalhor, a virtuoso on the kamancheh who has brought the traditional music of Iran, especially that of Khorasan and Kurdistan provinces, to global audiences.